MILLINOCKET, Maine — In a region with a recessed economy, Maine Heritage Timber is poised to expand, owner Tom Shafer says.
August is on track to be the best revenue-producing month the upscale flooring and furniture maker has had since the now 13-worker company launched in 2012. It just landed jobs in New York, Boston, Portland and Fargo, North Dakota, and it is shopping for investors in its $3 million to $5 million plan to add an 8,000-square-foot facility and a dozen more workers to its Golden Road facility over the next three years, Shafer said.
That’s why U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin stopped at Heritage Timber on his first swing through the Katahdin region since the Oakland-based Republican defeated state Sen. Emily Cain and independent Blaine Richardson in the November election.
Poliquin also visited Eastmill Federal Credit Union of East Millinocket, Millinocket Fabrication and Machine of Millinocket and Designlab, a Medway-based graphic design and social media marketing firm that is working to move into the former Millinocket Wreath factory on Penobscot Avenue in Millinocket.
“Even in this [economic] environment, there are some exciting entrepreneurs whose companies are growing,” Poliquin said.
Over a few beers after quitting time, Poliquin told workers on the sweltering Heritage Timber factory floor that he wanted to underline the vitality of the region’s forest products industry and the entrepreneurs who are making it work without government assistance. He also wanted to hear what he could do to help businesses grow in the 2nd Congressional District, the largest east of the Mississippi River.
Poliquin said he and fellow House Republicans are working to lower electrical costs, cut bureaucracy that inhibits investment and work on increasing natural-gas access to local businesses. Poliquin supports Downeast LNG’s plans to build a $2 billion facility that could both import and export liquefied natural gas through a 30-mile pipeline from Robbinston to Baring, where it would connect to the Maritimes & Northeast pipeline that connects Canada with southern New England.
“A lot of this is big stuff,” Poliquin told the workers between sips of beer. “What they are doing here is important. It’s not about the national park. The workers that are here are doing good and important work. We absolutely have to get federal taxes down to help them compete.”
Poliquin told the Heritage workers that workers at Wyman’s of Maine, a blueberry grower with facilities in Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and on Prince Edward Island, told him that Canada’s lower federal tax rates accounted for the company adding 65 new jobs there rather than in the U.S.
Poliquin’s congressional work could help Maine Heritage expand, he said. He and his colleagues successfully enforced a 20 percent tariff on wood products exported from Port Hawkesbury in Nova Scotia that was flooding the American market, Poliquin said.
A new Heritage Timber facility, Shafer said, would be used to house machinery that would produce a new product for the company: Timberchic. That’s a peel-and-stick interior wallboard made, like all Maine Heritage products, from wood reclaimed from Maine lakes and rivers. The company started producing Timberchic about six weeks ago, Shafer said.
The business owner was pleased with Poliquin’s visit. Poliquin was the first congressman to tour his company since it started, he said.
“We haven’t had any federal delegation members here in awhile,” Shafer said.
Poliquin said he thought recent votes in East Millinocket and Medway that showed participating voters did not want Lucas St. Clair’s proposed 150,000-acre national park in their area were significant.
“Certainly the people who have the most to gain or lose are the folks who live closest to the park area,” Poliquin said.